Dinner with the missionaries

Monday night I told my wife I would take her and the kids out to dinner for her birthday. Nothing special, mind you. Probably just Fuddruckers or somewhere with a play place for the kids.

At 8:30 p.m., my wife announced that she was tired and going to bed early. I was left to fend for myself.

27 minutes later, the phone rang. I looked at the caller ID and wondered who would be calling so late.

The Ward Mission Leader.

 Not good.

I answered the phone with some trepidation.

“Brian, this is Glenn.”

“Hi, what can I do for you,” I replied dutifully. (I was the Ward Mission Leader before Glenn and know how difficult it can be to find volunteers to help with missionary work in the ward.)

“I wondered if you would like to feed the missionaries tomorrow night at 5:00 p.m.,” he asked.

“Uh, well, it’s my wife’s birthday tomorrow…” I replied, hoping he would just say don’t worry about, it’s your wife’s birthday.

Not so.

He didn’t say anything.

“I guess we could just stay home tomorrow night and have the Elders over. I might need to ask my wife…but she is asleep.”

“Can you be home by 5:00 p.m.?” he asked.

I said I could.

The phone call ended and I was now responsible for feeding the Elders, and explaining to my wife why we couldn’t go out for dinner on her birthday.

Before leaving for work in the morning, I left a note for my explaining that we would be feeding the Elders dinner and that I would pick-up dinner on the way home.

My morning phone call with my wife didn’t go as well as I expected.

“I told Glenn we would feed the Elders tonight,” I explained, hoping she would understand.

“What happened to you taking me out to dinner for my birthday?” she asked with a tone of impatience in her voice.

“We’ll be blessed for feeding the missionaries,” I said. “Anyhow, I know you would understand.”

“Well, you don’t know me very well then,” was her reply.

Ouch! So much for the understanding wife.

I reminded her that we had dinner plans for Friday night–sans kids–and that I would make it up to her.

Before leaving work, I called my wife and asked her what she wanted for dinner. She said she didn’t care, code for- “You ruined my dinner out; nothing you can bring home will make up for that.”

I stopped at El Pollo Loco, picked-up a chicken dinner and some sides, and headed home.

When I arrived home, my Catholic father-in-law was still at the house and my wife announced that he would be staying for dinner. He said he wanted to give the missionaries a chance to convert him. (My father-in-law is a devout Catholic and enjoys a good religious conversation.)

Previously, our Stake has been covered by zone leaders and I expected a team of polished missionaries for dinner. Much to my surprise, instead of seasoned and well-groomed Elders arriving in an air-conditioned car, I looked outside and saw Elders on bicycles, looking weary and sweaty from a long day of proselyting.

I invited the Elders in and explained that my wife’s father would be joining us for dinner. I told them conversations on the apostasy were off-limits. My father-in-law can discuss almost any topic without arguing, but generally gets hot under the collar when discussing the apostasy. Not a problem. I was assured that this would be one subject that would not be broached in conversation.

The dinner went well and the conversation centered mostly on discussing the hometown of each Elder. The junior companion was from Logan, Utah and the senior companion from Grantsville, Utah.

After finishing dinner, the senior companion started searching through his scriptures for a spiritual thought to share. He first reached for his Bible and I told him that it would be o.k. to share something from the Book of Mormon.

He closed his Bible and opened his Book of Mormon to 2 Nephi 25:26 and started reading:

26 And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.

The Elder gave a brief explanation of the scripture and bore testimony of the Book of Mormon as a second witness of Jesus Christ.

After discussing the scripture in 2nd Nephi, my father-in-law asked how Latter-Day Saints define prophecy and he then shared how Catholics view prophecy and prophets. We found some common ground, but also agreed to disagree on other aspects of prophets and prophecy.

During the conversation, I realized more powerfully than ever that conversion comes only through a witness of the Spirit, and not by convincing through sharing scriptures and in-depth discussion of doctrine. I looked over at the two young Elders and hoped they realized this, too. I’m sure they did.

Before the missionaries left, I invited the junior companion to offer a word of prayer. His prayer was simple and short. As he prayed, I could feel the Spirit even stronger than I felt it all night. I knew my father-in-law felt it, too.

While my dinner plans with my wife didn’t turn out quite like I had originally planned, I was glad that we were able to feed the missionaries and have my father-in-law join us. I think now she understands the blessings that come when members feed the missionaries.

A good birthday dinner after all!

16 thoughts on “Dinner with the missionaries

  1. Yeah, dinner with the missionaries is always good. I’m a bit surprised at your WML, however. Feeding the missionaries on your wife’s birthday? Seems a bit extreme of a demand to me. I’m pretty sure I would have backed off and found somebody else.

    But you turned some lemons into lemonade, so it all worked out well in the end.

  2. I have a bad attitude about feeding missionaries. I think it is largely because in my mission, we would have been lucky to be invited to dinner once or twice a month, so we did all of our own shopping and cooking. Yet missionaries that serve in the US seem to expect to be fed. It feels like they feel entitled to it.

    If you need to press me into missionary work, I would much rather go on splits or host a discussion in my home. Make your own PB&J!

  3. ESO,

    I don’t think the missionaries feel entitled to dinner with members. I think it is done as a way to reduce the cost to the missionaries and the Church.

    Although it seems like a trivial thing to provide a meal to the missionaries, the blessings that come to those who provide those meals far outweighs the cost of the meal. If you want to enhance your missionary spirit, invite the missionaries into your home, feed them and get to know them.

    In Brazil, lunch was the big meal of the day and we were frequently left to cook for ourselves. I remember some wonderful meals in my first area, and fewer in my second area. I am happy to open my home and cupboards to the missionaries whenever I am asked to do so.

  4. Brian, you may be interested to know that when I lived in Rio we had a very small ward yet the missionaries were fed every single day (one reason is that we had two households that fed the missionaries once a week — I fed them once a month). Here in Miami, members only feed the missionaries about two or three times a week. I think the main reason is that not much effort is made to pass out the list and get people to volunteer. If more people were reminded about feeding the missionaries, it would probably happen more often.

  5. The MP in our area doesn’t allow the missionaries to be at member’s houses unless an investigator is also present. Consequently, the missionaries are on their own for dinner almost all the time.

    I think the MP is being very short-sighted, because he thinks this is a way to increase referrals and member involvement. Duh. Members invite their friends to meet the missionaries only when they feel comfortable with the missionaries, and that only happens when they know them and trust them.

  6. Great story…although I think I might have wanted to invite the elders along to dinner with us. We have also had times when we were asked to feed them, but had a schedule issue, so simply took them a hot meal on paper plates, ahead of time.

    On another note…please don’t hesitate to feed the missionaries when the chance is offered! (or, offer, yourself!) With the way the monthly stipends are dispursed, there is great leeway in the funds the missionaries have for needful things, like laundry, groceries,gas for a car if they have one, etc. I know of one mission (a US one) where the mission president cut the stipend in HALF, insisitng “the members will make up the difference.” The members have not –perhaps they did not get the memo–and we have young men and women sacrificing so much and actually going hungry besides. How would you manage if your monthly income dropped in half? They don’t exactly have food storage pantries to draw from.It’s not going to hurt you to make them a simple supper, and in return, you get a I-did-something-good feeling.

    Why, yes, I do have a missionary son, in Europe…does it show?

  7. I have a son serving a mission in Mexico, and from what he tells me, they are fed one BIG meal every afternoon. Which is why I feed our missionaries at least once a month (that and I’m the WML :). We have a sister in RS whose primary responbility is to fill the meal calendar for the missionaries. She’s very creative at getting part member and less active families to agree to feed the missionaries. We almost never have an open evening. Our missionaries cover two wards so my ward is responsible for providing meals two weeks per month. It’s a blessing to have the missionaries in our home.

  8. Although it’s great to feed the missionaries, I can’t imagine canceling birthday plans with my wife to do it. First I’d say no, and if the WM insisted I’d leave an envelope with $15 at the front door so they could go to Quiznos (which is what I would have preferred over many of my meals with members while in Australia).

  9. I agree with jjohnsen that although your story is a good one, I would have just said no and I wouldn’t have felt guilty about it. Some things are more important. But I don’t judge you for it. To each his own.

    And not only did I find it odd that the WML didn’t seem to get the hint, but also that he’s calling you the night before. Maybe there was some special considerations I’m not aware of, but that seems pretty non-standard. Would it have been the end of the world to have them get their own dinner if some other plans fell through? The few things I know about cooking I learned on my mission.

    In our ward, we’ve historically had ups and downs as far as feeding missionaries. The downs come when we get missionaries who don’t call ahead of time to set up times, and don’t return phone calls, and then just show up at some random time expecting to be fed, or blow off the appointment completely. This is unfortunate. Right now we have sister missionaries who are good, but one bad set can ruin it for those to come.

    I don’t mean to be a downer. I agree with other comments that often feeding missionaries is a great experience, but I thought I’d share some of the negatives also.

  10. jjohnsen: The missionaries are not allowed to accept cash from the members for dinner. I could have taken food to them, but all cash given them must be donated to the general missionary fund of the Church (per the MP).

    Mike L.: You know, if my wife had been awake, the answer surely would have been ‘no.’ Of course, I had a feeling that I should accept and that I would be blessed for it.

    You are right that some experiences with feeding the missionaries can be negative. As a missionary, I had a lunch appointment with an extremely poor family. One of the Elders with me helped himself to a very large portion of food. He failed to realize that the family would be left with nothing after the Elders got their portion of food. I ate a small portion and decided hunger was the best option, rather than take so much that the family would not be able to eat.

    I appreciate all of the comments. Good insights and food for thought. :-)

    I guess the biggest blessing was having my father-in-law there. That, to me, was the best part of the meal. My father-in-law is a spiritual giant and I am pleased that he would want to stay and eat with the missionaries.

  11. Is this for real? I know feeding the missionaries brings fun and blessings, and I wouldn’t second guess your decision- but still… I find this story hard to swallow.

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  13. It amazes me some of these comments are negative…feeding missionaries is such an easy way to serve. They fund their own mission themselves and dedicate two years of service. And if anyone can give me one reason it isnt good to invite the spirit into your home i would be surprized. I see it as a blessing and see the fruits of it everytime i get the opportunity.

  14. I had a lot of thoughts reading this. First of all, I wish there was a pollo loco in Cedar City, because I hear it’s really really good chicken.

    I had a neighbor who served a mission in California and he said he was sick to death of eating because every night the members would feed him a huge meal. “When I’m home and married and I have the missionaries over, I’m going to give them salad and water!”

    Because of that, whenever we have the missionaries, I ask them what’s their favorite fast food and we have that plus salad. If they want dessert, we have ice cream. They seem grateful, but I guess they couldn’t say they’re sick to death of food. Maybe I’ll just let them jump on the tramp next time.

    I have had some strange missionary dinner experiences. I don’t mind having them, but Bill ALWAYS is late and I have to get some neighbor kid to come over to chaperone us.

    Oh, and this is a good sales techniques: he who talks first loses. Which is why it was a smart move on your mission leader to say nothing. It’s really really hard to do, but it works. I’ve tried it.

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